A former travel agent who operated a Ponzi scheme which left holiday-makers stranded overseas and defrauded a bikie has been jailed.
A former travel agent who operated a Ponzi scheme which left holiday-makers stranded overseas and defrauded a bikie has been jailed.

Ponzi scheme travel agent jailed

A former travel agent who deceived a company director and holiday makers in a "protracted and systematic" Ponzi scheme and defrauded a bikie boss has been jailed.

Arthur Zacharias, 49, of Parkside, left clients stranded overseas and caused "significant trauma" to his victims, but is yet to repay a single cent in reparation.

He previously pleading guilty to 31 fraud offences including 19 counts of dishonestly dealing with property without consent over 23 months from July 2014 to June 2016.

In sentencing on Thursday, District Court Judge Simon Stretton said Zacharias' repeated breaches of trust left his victims feeling "helpless, hopelessness, misery, anger and frustration".

"Your behaviour resulted in significant trauma for a number of your victims as they realised the travel arrangements they thought had been made on their behalf had not been made," he said.

"Indeed, more than one was stranded in a foreign country, with you having purchased a one-way ticket when they thought they had return tickets."

At the time of the offences, Zacharias was a subcontractor at Axis Travel Centre which he sought and failed to part purchase using funds from convicted methamphetamine manufacturer, Hells Angel member Peter Sidirourgos.

Zacharias' failed attempt to buy the business from director and manager Max Najar - who purchased return airfares to rescue clients stranded overseas - involved a false bank cheque for $50,000.

Axis Travel owner Max Najar speaks after fraudster Arthur Zacharias is jailed. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz
Axis Travel owner Max Najar speaks after fraudster Arthur Zacharias is jailed. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz

Judge Stretton said the destruction to Mr Najar's business and clients was "appalling".

"Your offending represents a protracted and systematic course of dishonesty which included you stealing substantial amounts of money for your own purposes," he said.

At a previous hearing, Mr Najar read a victim impact statement describing Zacharias' offending as "orchestrated and cruel".

Judge Stretton said Zacharias' offending amounted to a Ponzi scheme.

"You used a significant amount of the money obtained by your dishonesty to pay personal bills, expenses and items then needed to make good those accounts by taking further money from new clients," he said.

He said "not a single cent" of money had been repaid to the victims, their insurers or Mr Najar.

"The court cannot accept that you had or have any intention to make restitution. You have been working full time for a considerable time and have not repaid any money at all."

During the offending, Zacharias was given a nine-month suspended sentence for wrongly claiming more than $35,000 from Centrelink. He will serve that period behind bars as well as a five and a half year term for the current offending.

Judge Stretton set a non-parole period of three years, two months and 16 days.

Outside court, Mr Najar said Zacharias' crimes had a "major impact" on both his business and health and it "would have been nicer to have a longer sentence".

"We rescued all of the clients, so nobody was stranded. All of the bona fide clients were rescued, paid back and so on," he said.

He said it was "disgusting" Zacharias had never repaid a cent.

"Zacharias is paying a very minor price for the major impact he has made to us all. His sentencing will never compensate for what he devised, executed, and inflicted upon us all."

He said Zacharias, who he had dismissed from the business immediately upon discovering the fraud, should be banned from again working as a business manager, director or investor.

Originally published as Ponzi scheme travel agent jailed



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